Words, Just Words

Last to Appear, First to Be Seen

Experientially, the physical world seems to be solid, firm, and real.

The less physical things are, like thoughts, emotions, and spirituality, the more ephemeral and elusive they seem. However, the truth is just the opposite. The Torah teaches that the more physical and tangible something is, the flimsier it actually is. But why is that?

The one and only absolute existence is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, God. God’s “existence” and “nature” are the ultimate antithesis of any kind of physicality. Similarly, all other existences derive from God’s existence. As such, the “closer” something is to Godliness, the less tangible it is, and more “airy” it seems to be. Conversely, the “further” something is from God, the more tangible, defined, and limited it becomes. In the original process of creation, those “worlds” olamot, and dimensions that were created first, are the most purely spiritual. Our world, the final phase in the cascading process of creation, is therefore, by definition, the most physical. To us, creatures of this world, everything physical seems so very, very firm and real, but it’s not. Indeed, while the great buildings and monuments of history crumble and fade away—even those erected by the mightiest of empires—ideas and words and thoughts endure.

Not What Meets the Eye

Physics teaches us that what feels and appears to be rock solid, is, in reality, almost nothing but empty space. In atoms and molecules, the building blocks of all physicality, and every sort of physical experience, the particles that make up matter take up far less space, than the space itself. Don’t be fooled by what you see and touch, our world is actually a very, very empty place. If we could look at our hand and see the actual “stuff” that we perceive and experience as a hand, what we would be looking at would far more resemble stars dotting the vastness of an otherwise empty sky, than the solidness of a clenched fist.

Think of a young person who is good at math but just can’t get the hang of algebra. To that person, the world of addition, subtraction, and multiplication is very real, but the algebraic world just doesn’t exist. That’s us: We have immediate, sensory access to the physical and therefore it’s all so real. That which is beneath the radar of our senses, just seems to be “beyond us.” But it’s not.

Tuning In

Just like we have senses to experience and connect with the physical world, we also have channels with which to experience and connect with the spiritual world. Our sfarim ha’kedoshim, our holy, esoteric works place the hands with which we feel things within rovad ha’maaseh, the dimension of actions. But there are other dimensions; there’s rovad ha’dibur—speech—and rovad ha’machshvah, thought. Speech and thought are how we connect and interact with deeper dimensions of reality. When we study and think thoughts of Torah, or speak words of Torah, we are connected to a whole other reality; a higher, deeper dimension of existence, an eternal dimension. Torah is the “world” of God’s light. Entering the great chamber of Torah is entering into another dimension altogether.

As Jews, as maminim, we know that as real as things are that we see and feel, that which transcends the confines of material physicality is actually more real and actual. In truth, the higher and more seemingly ephemeral the existence, the more “real” it is.

Just Words

“He shall not desecrate (empty) his word, according to whatever he utters from his mouth, he should do.” (Bamidbar 30:2)

From this verse, Rabbi Chaim Vital (the primary disciple of the Ari) learned that a person must be exceptionally careful not to speak “just words.” Words, as flimsy as they may seem, are far more real than we realize. Words are realities. Words make an impact and a difference, a very real difference. Just like our hands can shape things in the physical dimension, our words actually create and shape reality in the higher dimensions. Throw a stone, and one can shatter a window. Throw the wrong words, and one can shatter a heart, a spirit, a life. Stones can’t touch and resonate in higher worlds, but words can.

We live in a world saturated with words: Words, words, words and more words.

We need to be mindful, and to remember.

When human beings were first created as nefesh chaya—as a living soul—our sages tell us that this means we were created as speaking souls.

Words go to the deepest essence of who we are.

To honor our words is to honor our essence, our Godly, tzelem Elokim essence.

------------------------------------------------------- Translated and adapted by Shimon Apisdorf

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